When the last calls of outstanding actor names faded from the microphones Monday night at the 30th annual Helen Hayes Awards, the lingering questions weren’t about who should have won and for which play, but who would stay and dance the night away. TheatreWashington’s new “more party” mantra — with awards doled out while drama-prom patrons mingled at open bars — meant implementing what you could call a Cinderella rule at the National Building Museum: Keep the ballgowns on and stay dressed to the nines, but once the cellphones vibrated at 10:30 p.m., it was time to start paying for your own booze.
Was there a 10:25 rush for one last glass of champagne, bourbon on the rocks or Goose Island IPA? Well, yes. And if you listened over the din, you could hear people yell something about heading to the Green Turtle to watch the hockey game, or to meet friends at the east entrance in search of beer cheaper than $5 (good luck), but the dance floor was still mobbed until the lights came up at 12:15 a.m.
“It is so great to see so many people out and getting down on a Monday night,” said choreographer Lucy Bowen McCauley. She came to the awards in support of Shakespeare Theatre director Alan Paul, who has collaborated with her dance troupe and took home a trophy for outstanding director of a resident musical. The dance floor action, in McCauley’s estimation, was not quite so award-winning. “I feel a little like I’m at a wedding,” the choreographer said, but that didn’t stop her from breaking out her Bob Fosse jazz hands when DJ Tanz turned up Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”
Over by the gelato bar, a distinctive looking actor in a white fedora crossed his legs, turned and gracefully slid his feet across the carpet. It looked a bit like he was doing some Memphis jookin’. “Jookin?” said Adeoye, who was nominated for outstanding ensemble in a resident play, “No, this is freedom style.”
Other dancers were a little less polished. If your feet got tired, a shoe-check was available for $5, but another option was to find a guy who wanted to try dancing in three-inch heels. (Some did.) Another overly enthusiastic dude spent the entire after-party dancing on a divan, despite repeated efforts to talk him down.
There was dancing between award sets too, though earlier in the night the parquet floor seemed more popular with the younger crowd.
“I think they put us on the big screen while all the adults were at the bar,” said 15-year-old Jake Foster, who jived with friends from the cast of Adventure Theatre’s “Goodnight Moon.”
Jake and his mom, Paula, were attending their second Helen Hayes Awards, but their first party. In previous years, the ceremony was held at the Warner Theatre. After all the winners were announced, a parade of mostly sober theater people headed to a late-night gala at the J.W. Marriott. Many younger nominees had to go home without enjoying the party because, as Paula pointed out, “It’s a school night.” Serving food sooner was a plus. “I had a Sprite and some of that fancy bacon,” Jake said.
Other non-alcoholic amusement included lip readings, available in the Celebrity Cruises VIP lounge courtesy of a psychic who identified herself only as Ariana. Actors Jon Hudson Odom and Andru Honeycutt smeared their mouths with a shade of lipstick called “Java 449A” and smooched a piece of paper. “She said I was good with animals and kids, and that’s pretty on point,” Odom said, noting that Ariana’s assessment also fit the character, Lymon, that he’ll soon be playing in Olney Theatre Center’s production of “The Piano Lesson.” But both actors also appreciate Ariana’s more generic exhortation. “She told us both to go big or go home,” Honeycutt said.
The Kennedy Center’s three big wins at the Helen Hayes Awards came for the touring production of “Book of Mormon,” but next year, the theater complex hopes to be nominated for its resident production of “Side Show.” The musical begins previews June 14, and this week, the Kennedy Center announced that the Washington cast will remain largely unchanged from the musical’s fall run at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.
Broadway vets Erin Davie (“Grey Gardens,” “Mystery of Edwin Drood”) and Emily Padgett (“Rock of Ages,” “Legally Blonde”) will continue to star as conjoined twin sisters Violet and Daisy, real-life vaudeville performers who captivated the country in the 1930s. The musical debuted on Broadway in 1997, and lost the 1998 Tony Award for best musical to “The Lion King.” Henry Krieger, best known for “Dreamgirls,” wrote the peppy score, and Bill Russell penned the book and lyrics. Both have tinkered with their work for this revival, which Bill Condon will direct.
The cast also includes Matthew Hydzik as Buddy Foster, Robert Joy as Sir and Ryan Silverman as Terry Connor. Silverman replaces Manoel Feliciano, who bowed out for undisclosed reasons, and Charity Dawson will replace Keala Settle, who has since joined the cast of “Les Misérables” on Broadway. The opening number in “Side Show” is “Come and Look at the Freaks.” The Kennedy Center is hoping that Washington will.
Just as local actors sometimes wish it were easier to get parts in shows at the Kennedy Center and other big theaters, local businesses sometimes find themselves on the outside of venues looking in. Fred Crudder, marketing director at the Halethorpe, Md.-based Heavy Seas brewery, called the Hippodrome a few months ago hoping he could sell his Loose Cannon IPA and Peg Leg stout during the theater’s blockbuster run of “Book of Mormon.” In cities around the country, Crudder had heard that the musical about teetotaling missionaries attracts “a beer-loving audience.”
Instead of finding a new customer, Crudder learned about the complicated concession contracts that tie theaters like the Hippodrome to various products and vendors. “It was an education,” he said. But he was thrilled to get a call from Kady Chambers, the Hippodrome’s special events manager, who asked if Heavy Seas would be willing to offer a beer tasting night during the theater’s 12-day run of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
“It was too good an opportunity to pass up,” Crudder said. “We had wanted to work with the Hippodrome, and now: Boom! We got this pirate play.”
For $50, theater patrons get a ticket to see “Starcatcher” May 8, plus admission to a pre-show, five-beer tasting at the Hippodrome, a voucher to tour the Heavy Seas brewery and a take-home souvenir glass.
Theaters “aren’t traditionally on front lines of craft brewing,” Crudder said, but just because venues sell mass-marketed drafts doesn’t mean “that theater folks aren’t educated about craft beer.” He’d love to see people drinking something other than $3.50 Bud Light at the Kennedy Center’s happy hour, and hopes the promotion leads to more partnerships between performing arts venues and local breweries. “Let’s call this an exploratory adventure in craft breweries and Broadway theater,” he said.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.